Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) signed a controversial abortion bill into law on Thursday morning after weeks of ongoing protest against the measure. HB 2 will criminalize abortions after 20 weeks and impose harsh regulations on abortion providers that will force the vast majority of them to close their doors.
“It is a very happy, celebratory day,” Perry said before signing the abortion restrictions. The governor added his signature to the bill while flanked by other conservative members of the legislature, including Rep. Jodie Laubenberg (R), who championed the anti-abortion measure. Laubenberg praised the governor’s legacy of “eternal life.”
Silent protesters lined the capitol rotunda, wearing black clothing and holding signs proclaiming “SHAME.” After Perry signed HB 2 and applause erupted in the auditorium, shouts of “shame” could be heard from the protesters outside the room. “The blood of Texas women is on your hands!” protesters chanted in the rotunda.
HB 2 combines several pieces of anti-abortion legislation that were unable to advance during Texas’ regular legislative session. Perry called two special sessions specifically to give lawmakers more time to push them through. During the first session, thousands of protesters helped delay the abortion restrictions until the last minute, giving Sen. Wendy Davis (D) a chance to block the bill with a dramatic filibuster that lasted for more than 11 hours. But those tactics weren’t enough to prevent the bill’s advancement during a second special session.
Pro-choice activists in the state haven’t yet given up the fight despite the legislation’s passage. The protests have continued, and women’s health advocates hope to translate the current momentum into voter drives to elect pro-choice candidates. Legal challenges will likely be filed against the harsh new law.
Women’s health advocates condemned the governor’s decision to sign HB 2. “Governor Perry and anti-choice politicians in the Texas Legislature have worked overtime to advance a cruel assault on women’s health, dignity, and constitutional rights,” Julie Rikelman, the litigation director at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. “Even after tens of thousands have stood up in the State Capitol and in cities across the state to tell them loud and clear that politicians should not be interfering in a woman’s personal and private decision-making, some politicians are still not getting message,” Terri Burke, the ACLU of Texas’ executive director, added in a statement of her own.